Respect and Directions

I often walk through the area of the jail where they bring in new inmates. One evening as I passed through the intake area a man inside one of the processing cells was shouting a loud, long stream of profanities.

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Standing outside the cell there were five slightly out of breath COs (correctional officers). They had obviously just put a man in the cell a few minutes earlier.

During the occasional breaks in the man’s foul-mouthed diatribe one of the COs, Officer M, would explain to the man that, once he calmed himself down, they would transport him to his new unit. It could be in a few minutes, or they could wait all night. It was up to the man and when he had regained his self-control.

What struck me about this was that Officer M was saying all of this in a calm and respectful manner. He was not being patronizing. He was relaying information that this man needed.

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Later that evening I again walked through the intake area. The man was still in the cell, but he had finally calmed down. Officer M was respectfully explaining in greater detail what the man needed to do. He was doing it in much the same manner that someone might give directions to a traveler who was lost and needed directions to get back to the main highway. Officer M was treating this man with dignity and respect. He was giving the man directions he needed to continue with this part of life’s journey.

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Officer M has been doing this job for a long time. He is just a few years away from retirement. I’ve overheard him speaking with other inmates. He frequently will say “sir” when he addresses them.

  • Sir, would you please face the wall.
  • Sir, I need you to face the wall now!

Even as he is commanding, he is still respectful. He doesn’t get caught up in other people’s drama. He treats people with dignity and respect, even when those people are being disrespectful and out of control.

In Romans Paul reminds us that when we were out of control, Christ treated us with honor and respect by offering himself up for us.

Romans 5:6-8 The Message (MSG)

6-8 Christ arrives right on time to make this happen. He didn’t, and doesn’t, wait for us to get ready. He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn’t been so weak, we wouldn’t have known what to do anyway. We can understand someone dying for a person worth dying for, and we can understand how someone good and noble could inspire us to selfless sacrifice. But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him.

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